Imagine if there was a way to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and some forms of cancer without having to take a single pill or worrying about a side effect that could severely disrupt your quality of life.
Well, there is. It’s a remedy that’s been around forever, but there’s a good chance you’ve never considered it.
Exercise is the best thing you can do to extend your longevity. It costs virtually nothing and is far cheaper than the medications and treatments for the conditions mentioned above…so much so that it’s not even worth the comparison.
The reason why you, and most others, don’t exercise regularly is that you have no idea where to start. And because you may be scared of the unknown, you’ve been increasing your chances of developing a chronic illness.
To start an exercise routine, the first thing you want to do is schedule an appointment with your doctor. This is especially true for anybody who is over 45 or has any major health risks. This meeting will help you gauge your fitness level and identify a starting point for your exercise routine.
Next, choose an activity that you like. Walking, jogging, cycling, weight training, swimming—anything that gets your heart pumping. The best thing to do is to choose take a two-prong approach. Choose one activity that focuses primarily on cardiovascular fitness—so walking, running, or swimming, for example. And choose another that focuses on strength and muscle building, like weight training, exercising with elastics/resistance bands, or pool resistance training.
The American Health Association recommends being active for 150 minutes per week, so splitting your workouts between resistance training and cardio to hit this minimum is the best strategy for your overall health.
When getting started, it’s very important to exercise at a low intensity and go slow. You may have to budget a little extra time to reach your goals—like improved balance, lower blood pressure, greater strength, reduced fat, increased muscle—since trying to come out of the gate too fast can be dangerous and disheartening. Slow and steady progress is the name of the game when it comes to fitness, regardless of your fitness level or experience.
If you’re new to any form of exercise—especially when it comes to resistance training—start out with a professional. Trainers can help you design an appropriate plan to reach your goals, while providing the instruction needed to perform movements properly so you get the best results and limit your risk of injury.
And please, when you think of a trainer, don’t conjure up images of people yelling at you to be a better version of yourself or to dig deeper as your heart gets ready to explode—you know, the ones you see on your television set. A good trainer will work with your doctor to come up with a safe and useful plan to maintain good health and prevent those major diseases, among others.
Exercise is perhaps the most proven prevention tool to combat chronic illness. It can even reduce existing symptoms. If you want to avoid medication, save money, and feel better all around, I strongly recommend that you start an exercise program as soon as possible.
Mat Lecompte, CPT
Zamora, D., “Fitness 101: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Exercise,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/fitness-beginners-guide#3, last accessed March 21, 2017.